This year, the Sisters of Life celebrates its twentieth birthday. The Sisters of Life is a religious order established in 1991. They exist “to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life.” If you visit the Sisters of Life’s website, you will read stories about pregnant women receiving help from the compassionate nuns, either at one of the housing facilities they provide, or in the form of strollers and baby clothes. The website paints a pretty picture of nuns in their habits, but it is a very incomplete picture at best.
The language that the Sisters of Life use may seem woman-centric on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper, you realize that they are only concerned with the fetus, not the woman. The tactics they use are very similar to those at crisis pregnancy centers. When women approach them for help, they are given biased information against abortion and are only offered assistance if they continue their pregnancy.
Sisters of Life currently serve under the supervision of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The archbishop has been very vocal about his positions on birth control and abortion. During his installation as the president of the USCCB, he stated that he would use the post to “to embrace and protect the dignity of every human person, the sanctity of human life, from the tiny baby in the womb to the last moment of natural passing into eternal life.” Archbishop Dolan and the USCCB have been in the news recently criticizing the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement that it supports no co-pay birth control, despite the HHS exception for religious hospitals and insurance programs.
I think it’s important to compare Sisters of Life to the group Catholics for Choice, which serves as “a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.” Catholics for Choice argues that abortion and birth control are a matter of individual conscience, and that each woman has the ability to make her own decisions about what is best for her health and her family.
I’m not a Catholic myself, but I really respect the work of Catholics for Choice. They use Catholic theology to justify their position, and they educate pro-choice advocates about the best way to reach out to the Catholic community. CFC trusts and respects women, while the Sisters of Life assume that the Pope ultimately knows what’s best for women’s lives.
Although I think it’s commendable that the nuns who belong to Sisters of Life have dedicated their lives to serving others, I think their message cannot be taken at face value. Abortion and birth control are ultimately a personal decision. The fact that 98% of Catholic women say that they have used some form of birth control should be a sign to the Catholic hierarchy that they are out of touch with their parishioners’ lives.